A fanzine dedicated to the music of Bruce Springsteen is set to close after 43 years.
The fanzine, Backstreets, is a periodic magazine that’s been covering Springsteen and his E Street Band since 1980. It’s shutting down over their disillusionment with the “dynamic pricing” system, which has led to hugely inflated ticket prices and what the creators of the fanzine have previously deemed a fan “freeze out”.
Last summer, when tickets for Springsteen’s 2023 world tour dates went on sale, fans were asked to pay up to $5000 (£4152) for some tickets.
The dynamic pricing model allowed Ticketmaster to charge more for tickets when they first go on sale. The dynamic pricing system responds to demand and so increases or decreases prices in line with what “scalpers” – a person who re-sells a ticket for profit – would sell them for, keeping the money in-house for the seller and artist.
Publisher and editor-in-chief of Backstreets Christopher Phillips wrote about the closure in a new editorial. “After 43 years of publishing in one form or another, by fans for fans of Bruce Springsteen, it’s with mixed emotions that we announce Backstreets has reached the end of the road,” he wrote.
“We are immensely proud of the work Backstreets has done, and we are forever grateful to the worldwide community of fellow fans who have contributed to and supported our efforts all these years, but we know our time has come.
“If you read the editorial Backstreets published last summer in the aftermath of the U.S. ticket sales, you have a sense of where our heads and hearts have been: dispirited, downhearted, and, yes, disillusioned. It’s not a feeling we’re at all accustomed to while anticipating a new Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tour…
“There’s no denying that the new ticket price range has in and of itself been a determining factor in our outlook as the 2023 tour approached — certainly in terms of the experience that hardcore fans have been accustomed to for, as Springsteen noted, 49 years. Six months after the on-sales, we still faced this three-part predicament: These are concerts that we can hardly afford; that many of our readers cannot afford; and that a good portion of our readership has lost interest in as a result.”
Springsteen defended the price hikes last year. When Rolling Stone asked Springsteen about the controversy in an interview about his new album of soul covers, ‘Only The Strong Survive’, The Boss said that while he usually tries to charge “a little less” than peers, this time around, he wanted to do “what everybody else is doing”.
“What I do is a very simple thing. I tell my guys, ‘Go out and see what everybody else is doing. Let’s charge a little less.’ That’s generally the directions,” Springsteen said. “They go out and set it up. For the past 49 years or however long we’ve been playing, we’ve pretty much been out there under market value. I’ve enjoyed that. It’s been great for the fans.”
He added: “This time I told them, ‘Hey, we’re 73 years old. The guys are there. I want to do what everybody else is doing, my peers.’ So that’s what happened. That’s what they did.”
He did, however, acknowledge that “ticket buying has gotten very confusing” for both fans and artists. “And the bottom line is that most of our tickets are totally affordable. They’re in that affordable range,” he continued. “We have those tickets that are going to go for that [higher] price somewhere anyway. The ticket broker or someone is going to be taking that money. I’m going, ‘Hey, why shouldn’t that money go to the guys that are going to be up there sweating three hours a night for it?’
“I know it was unpopular with some fans. But if there’s any complaints on the way out, you can have your money back.”
Ticketmaster later issued a statement addressing the controversy, saying that “Prices and formats are consistent with industry standards for top performers” [as per Variety].